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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

‘American Idol’ Chicago auditions recap

Johnny Keyser is back! He should have made it further last year.

Johnny Keyser is back! He should have made it further last year.

Thank you Deirdre for corralling everybody over to my “moving!” blog entry to comment on the show Thursday night while I was out. I’ll tell you all when the commenting issue on the new software is fixed.

Without all the set up from day one in New York, they chose to highlight more talent in Chicago. Far more talent.

And that made for a more entertaining two hours. We saw 16 people make it to Hollywood, twice as many as in New York.  We saw only five bad ones. There wasn’t a situation liks Wednesdahy where the singer was closer but not quite there.  Among my favorites; MacKenzie (country), Curtis (the gospel guy), Kez (fire performer) and Lazaro (stutterer).

If spoilers are to be believed, a mere three of them, though, make it to the final 40.

First up:

Mackenzie Wasner, 17, Leiper’s Fork, TN (“Whenever You Come Around” Vince Gill) – This blond country singer has a dad who plays keyboard for Vince Gill so she is not afraid of the stage. She brings the looks of Carmen Rasmussen (remember her?) with a sweet, pleasant tone that Keith Urban says evokes Dolly Parton, as well as LeAnn Womack. “You just blew my mind,” Nicki said. “You are a star.” “You’ve got this great blend of strength and vulnerability,” Keith said. I can’t imagine she won’t make it into the top 24 if she can maintain that level of performance.

Austin Earles, 19, Lakeview, MI (”Fantasy” Mariah Carey). Clearly, they brought him in for his pure ability to be tone deaf while mauling a Mariah song. Naturally, Nicki got sarcastic and said she loved it, annoying Mariah.

Kiara Lanier, 21, Chicago (”The Prayer” Celine Dion) – She didn’t try to over-sing the song from a power standpoint, giving the song far more nuance than Celine ever did. I enjoyed it – even with all the runs and I’m not typically a fan of too many runs.  “You have so much control. soft and high, but pretty and beautiful.” Keith Urban said she had some Aaron Neville-esque feel in her runs. This is another person that could be a serious top 24 contender.

Stephanie Schimel, 20, Milwaukee, WI (“Dream a Little Dream” by Mama Cass) – I liked her. She brought some skills but was she as good as Kiara or MacKenzie. Not quite.”Carrie Underwood-Gwen Stefani mix,” Keith said. “I wasn’t wowed,” Nicki said. “Nothing jumped at me.” She gets three of the four judges’ votes to make it to Hollywood.

At this point, we see Mariah and Nicki go at it in a montage. At one point, Keith starts banging his head on the desk theatrically. “I feel like a scratching post!”

Melissa Bush , 27, Grandville, Mi (“Downtown” by Petula Clark) – She’s a mediocre karaoke singer but hardly an “Idol” contestant. They aired this primarily because they idiotically goofed with her last name. Really?

Gabe Brown , 21, Marion, IA  (“Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones, “We All Die Young” Steel Dragon) – This Chris Sligh-ish looking dude was found during the small-town bus tour.  Wow. This guy is loud! Crazy loud! Eardrum-piercing! But I can’t say that was good. His second song is a bit better. He’s fun, at least, and brings, as Keith said, heart. “I really like you,” Randy said. “When you’re doing your rock thing, I believe you,” Nicki said.

Kevin Nabity, 25 , Polk City, IA (“One Week” by Barenaked Ladies) – Joke contestant who loves Ninja Turtles, martial arts and dancing. I’m not sure singing was part of the equation. Pass.

Isabelle Parell, 15 , Centerton, IN (“Baby It’s Cold Outside” – Christmas classic) – She is a little dowdy looking but she shows confidence. I’m not sure she felt modern with this pick but was very likable. “You have a really sweet quality to you,” Mariah said. “You came in poised,” Nicki said. “You have this thing about you that is like a star.” (Interestingly, Randy said no but the other three were fans.)

Keith has to leave for a concert so they plant Randy between the ladies. There’s then a montage of guys Nicki slobbered over. Not fun. This leads to…

Griffin Peterson, 22, Oconomowoc, WI (“Wash by the Water” by NeedtoBreathe) -  “Do you have a girlfriend?” Nicki asked him. “Is this a singing show?” Randy said. He looked nervous and lacks stage presence. Vocally, he’s nothing special either. While Nicki thinks he has “star” quality, I don’t. Mariah says there’s “potential.”  “I didn’t get it,” Randy said. “The voice was just barely below average.” The two women outvote Randy. He won’t last in Hollywood.

Curtis Finch Jr., 24, St. Louis, MO (“God is Able” Smokie Norful) – We need a good gospel guy this year, eh? Raise the roof! This man made me smile.  He’s a no brainer through to Hollywood.

Sob story #1. Mariah Pulice, 19,  Darien, IL (“Let it Be” by the Beatles) – “I’m connecting with you because I didn’t know other Mariah’s’ growing up,” Mariah Carey said. She has battled anorexia. The producers showed restraint by waiting until hour two for the first sob story.  “If there was no music, I wouldn’t be alive,” she said. That pain she harbors shows up in her lush voice. I am a fan. “I really really felt that song in you,” Nicki said.”Your spirit is coming out with your music.” Easy trip to Hollywood for her. Will she be able to handle the pressure?

Brandy Neelley, 17, Louisville, KY  (“Your Cheating Heart” by Hank Williams) – She’s one of the “lifers” who has wanted to be on “Idol” for years. She brought this with panache and vocal power. An absolutely solid audition. “You’re super super special,” Nicki said. “The song choice was amazing, A-plus-azing,” Mariah said. She gets an easy ticket to Hollywood.

Four good contestants in a row including Josh Holliday (a spirited “Back at One” Brian McKnight), Courtney Williams (“Who’s Loving You” Jackson 5), Andrew Jones (a rockin’ “Knock on Wood” by Amii Stewart) and Clifton  Duffin, 22, Country Club Hills, IL (”Superstar” Luther Vandross), who was never confident enough to sing to even his parents.  He’s surprisingly good. He’s no Ruben Studdard but makes his parents happy.

Ieisha Cotton, Chicago, IL (“Thank You” Ashanti) – She dances a bit stripper like, then sings with no particular finesses. Very flat, very lame. “You’re tone deaf,” Randy said. Goodbye.

Johnny Keyser, 23, Pompano Beach, FL , “Try A Little Tenderness” Otis Redding  – This is the dude I thought should have gone into the top 24 last year. Nicki pulls another “Do you have a girlfriend?” line. He brings more of his white soul and is charming again. “Johnny’s back,’ said Randy, who was the only one here a year ago. “You show you really want this and prove you’re really worth it. Hopefully you won’t crash and burn this time.” (Did he even crash and burn the first time?) Mariah says he has “star quality.” Will second time be a charm for Johnny in Hollywood?

Kez Ban, 27, Durham, NC  (“I’ve Got No Strings” – Pinnochio and an original) Is this fire performer a big joke? Nope. Actually not. Though I can’t tell the gender of this person. He? She? I’ll guess she. I really liked her original song. Very singer songwriter. She has a voice that is worth listening to. “I can feel the realness in you,” Mariah said. “Very captivating,” Nicki said. “You took me into your world.” Off to Hollywood!

“Idol” does a “Les Miserables” take-off called “The Miserables.”

Close to done, we get a truly bad singer in Ashley Curry ( “Mama Knows Best” Jessie J) – This is all about wailing and volume. The opposite of control. She’s one of those classic deluded contestants. Mariah walks away. Security escorts her out.

Sob story supremo: Lazaro Arbos, 21, Arbos, FL (“Bridge Over Troubled Water” Simon and Garfunkel) – This vulnerable stutterer who was bullied in school, who felt completely isolated, opens up only as a singer. When I saw this during the preview last week in a movie theater, he got much applause. I can’t imagine he will win the show, he has as good a shot as any to make it far in Hollywood. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of him unless nerves truly get the best of him.

37 comments Add your comment

Deirdre

January 17th, 2013
10:05 pm

You’d think they’d fix the issues BEFORE they moved us over there. Thank goodness this blog was still open.

JTesla

January 17th, 2013
10:32 pm

What’s a blog move without issues.

JTesla

January 17th, 2013
11:08 pm

I was going to say Mariah looks “puffy” but then I saw Nicki… yowza!

Mercedes S.

January 18th, 2013
12:35 am

Still need to see my recorded “Idol”. Was off to see “Warm Bodies”, cute zombie romance.

FarTrain

January 18th, 2013
1:14 am

“What’s a blog move without issues”, says ***JTesla**** Yeah, but this has been going on for weeks over in the sports section. They know about the problems, but don’t seem to really care enough to make changes or fix them. Rather than progessed they have regressed IMHO, and others I might add.

FarTrain

January 18th, 2013
1:15 am

CORRECTION IN LAST POST: should be “PROGRESSED” not “progessed”.

Deirdre

January 18th, 2013
7:40 am

Morning!

I’ll check out the new place in a few.

I actually liked the show last night. The talent was entertaining, I still like Randy’s fearlessness about telling someone that they are not meant to sing. The bickering was less annoying. I hope the powers-that-be at Idol edit the next few shows based on the negative feedback Idol is getting about the behavior of these 2 women. I hope Nicki ans Mariah watch themselves and wonder what they were thinking.

Harriett

January 18th, 2013
8:14 am

Good morning.

I will try to check in and see what the conversation is today, but as with the rest of this week, I am snowed under with beginning of semester issues. Finally got a chance to talk to everyone last night.

Deirdre, enjoyed last night’s show very much, too, and like you, also am enjoying the way Randy seems to have taken charge and judge honestly. He is, after all, the senior guy on the panel.

Deirdre

January 18th, 2013
8:16 am

In truth, I fear for Idol this year. Will the producers read the press? Will they believe it? Nicki Minaj is a thorn in the paw of the show. A better analogy may be that she’s the straw who may break this camel’s back. And frankly, Mariah isn’t much better. Why would she continue to goad Nicki under her breath?

When they both focus on the singers, Mariah does ok and Nicki just stays a little weird.

Mariah frequently turns a contestant’s song choice or personal story into something about herself. She is the word “diva” personified. Everything comes back to her.

Nicki, on the other hand, gives the contestants nicknames, questions the ability of the talented(as if she doesn’t want to admit they are talented) and coddles the truly awful as if they’ve gotten a raw deal.

All this goes on during the constant word play between the two which is distracting, annoying, childish, egotistical and becoming unbearable.

Idol: Please edit these shows to eliminate this crap, and get these two children under control before the live shows begin!

Harriett

January 18th, 2013
8:37 am

What I have always lked about Idol iwas the focus on the contestants and not the judges. Even with Simon there, the focus was not on him personally, but rather his reaction to what he saw and heard. The Voice was all about the judges, as was XF. With the addition of Nikki and Mariah, Idol has now joined the other two in beingi about the judges. Keith is great and Randy, too, IMO. They both judge without interjecting themselves into the mix. Not so with these women.

Deirdre

January 18th, 2013
8:46 am

Agree Harriett. I hope that Nigel sees this. I realize he’ll be walking a thin line between keep the show about the contestants and keeping the two walking egos happy but I think he can do it.

Once the live show starts and time constraints come into play, we may see a difference.

Heck, as far as we know, the producers may have edited the show to make it look worse than it is.

Sam-A

January 18th, 2013
8:50 am

Wondered why, when I clicked to “register” nothing happened.

Only watched a bit of the show, as I wanted to watch the submarine show – next to last one. Didn’t see anyone particularly impressive, and don’t know why the screamer who Randy called a “rocker” got thru – it was like nails on a chalkboard!

Deirdre

January 18th, 2013
9:08 am

Rodney, re Johnny Keyser: does anyone even know what happened to him last year? Idol dropped the focus on him from the time he got to Hollywood and only showed him, I believe, during a group sing. Was it nerves? Ego? Lack of focus? He seemed quite serious this time, as if he was afraid to look too happy.

Deirdre

January 18th, 2013
9:11 am

And what about Kez Ban aka Katharine…once we determined she was a girl and once she started singing I really liked her…but there are serious things going on with her. Asperger’s maybe.

Deirdre

January 18th, 2013
9:13 am

She reminded me a little of Sheldon Cooper…just not a genius.

Harriett

January 18th, 2013
9:42 am

I liked her, too, D. I came in a bit late and thought she was a guy, but soon learned the truth.

DanJ

January 18th, 2013
9:54 am

The chemistry between the judges on this season of Idol is hard to stomach. The first night I kinda thought Nicki was interesting, last night I just hit mute when Nicki started talking. Maybe at the final Mariah and Nicki will have a kiss and make up moment ala Simon and Paula. Maybe the feud is staged! For me it isn’t working. Maybe Idol should look at how The Voice does it. Nicki and Mariah are acting childish to say the least and I have to wonder if their antics will turn off their fans and those of the show? I honestly feel sorry for Keith. This could turn into a trainwreck quickly!

Mercedes S.

January 18th, 2013
9:57 am

Morning!
Still haven’t had time to watch recorded show…busy day ahead, but i do want to recommend “Mama” for those who prefer their horror movies packed with suspense rather than buckets of blood and sawed-off limbs.
Jessica Chastain is unrecognizable as rocker-chic in short, black wig. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (evil Jamie Lannister in “Game of Thrones”) is her boyfriend, a good guy trying to take care of his nieces, found after being “lost in the woods” for five years. Girls were being cared for by a ghost! Spooky, fun conundrum of ghost mom, feral girls and new mom/dad set who knows nothing about kids..

JTesla

January 18th, 2013
10:50 am

I was going to ask you about that one Mercedes. Thanks.

I’m liking Nicki. It’s always about the judges in the audition round, the true test is when it goes live with a minor test in Hollywood.

Rickster

January 18th, 2013
10:58 am

I was less-than-enthused going into this season – and I’m even less enthused now.

Nikki has one of the most annoying voices I’m ever heard, and visually she’s a train wreck. (For crying out loud Nikki… cover those puppies up!)

Mariah is the Idol equivalent of XF’s Britney – a big name past her prime who adds little in the way of constructive (or reasonably intelligent) comments.

Keith’s not done enough to define himself as to what kind of judge he’ll be.

So that leaves Randy as the best judge? That’s not good.

No wonder Nigel said that Ryan’s so important to the show.

Rickster

January 18th, 2013
11:03 am

So far, out of all the contestants, there’s only one I’ve seen that made me think “they’ve got a real shot.” But right now I can’t remember which one she was.

Rickster

January 18th, 2013
11:07 am

I wouldn’t recognize Jessica Chastain unless she wore a “Hello, I’m Jessica Chastain” name tag. :-)

Woodpappy

January 18th, 2013
11:13 am

Ok, what’s with all the jumping around to find our newest home????? Didn’t get to see Idol last night because of School, but will watch it tonight.

Mercedes S.

January 18th, 2013
11:24 am

Rickster, at 11:07, that’s why Jessica is aka “little Meryl”.

♥ kelly&carriefan ♥

January 18th, 2013
11:54 am

Hi y’all,

I am, surprisingly enjoying Idol so far. Granted, it’s only been 2 episodes, but I feel like the whole feud was blown way out of proportion. And really, you have to personalities who both want to be the HBIC…it’s bound to happen. Do I like that they are playing that angle? Frankly, it’s silly and cliched.

But aside from that, I’ve been entertained by the judges. Idol producers aren’t that stupy. They know that early on, especially during the auditions people are going to watch for the judges, especially since they are new this year, and have been “feuding.” I’m sure once we start getting to the real contestants and live shows, their focus will shift back to the Top12/13/ or 10. (I’ve heard it might be a Top 10 this time around…)

As for the talent, yes, I’ve seen some good auditions, but nothing has blown me away yet. And I have not looked at spoilers so far, I might after we are done with the cities, and during Hollywood Week.

Like a comfy old sweatshirt in this cold week and rainy week, Idol has been enjoyable.

Rickster

January 18th, 2013
12:12 pm

Sorry, Mercedes, let me rephrase my 11:07 comment:

I wouldn’t know Jessica Chastain unless she wore a “Hello, I’m Jessica Chastain” name tag.

:-)

Rickster

January 18th, 2013
12:17 pm

If ignorance is bliss… I’m in a perpectual state of bliss. :-)

Peter W

January 18th, 2013
12:35 pm

I am with Deirdre in thinking this could be it for Idol. Worst-judges-ever. I cannot stand the Minaj–makes me ill. She’s egotistica, not funny, not attractive Mariah Carey is so pretentious it’s hard to watch, and could Keith Urban be any more bland? I won’t be able to watch this year; it’s just too painful and annoying. I can’t wait for The Voice to start up its spring season. Goodbye Idol.

Nana

January 18th, 2013
12:42 pm

Good Afternoon to All……

Finally got registered on the new site. At least I THINK it was the new site. I will be known there as 1stNana.

As far as N&M go, I think they antagonize and goad each other into sparring. Just how much of this is staged or real, we will never know. I can’t believe that they, who are considered “professionals” actually dislike each other that much. Nicki’s ego appears to be much greater than Mariah’s and think she has a case of phantasm that she is the greatest. Maybe, AI producers made a hugh error in getting her as a judge. Her voice reminds me of someone who speakes using a voice distortion.

Deirdre

January 18th, 2013
1:34 pm

The new site appears to be working again. It appeared to be working yesterday as well and a lot of good that did us!

At least we now have plenty of practice time before the next show.

Best thing I have found about the new site so far is the “edit” feature. It helps rid the blog of those pesky typos. Worst thing so far is posting at the top and then watching the “big bounce” as it sends your post down to the bottom. Very weird!

For those reluctant to register: I opened up what I call my privacy email. Both yahoo and hotmail offer free email. You can use a fake name and keep your real email address private this way. I check my yahoo account about once a month just to clean out spam. BTW, I’ve been hanging out with the ajc for so long that they have the real deal.

Sam-A

January 18th, 2013
1:36 pm

Rickster: Jessica C is a tall, buxom redhead – was in “The Help” and now in “Zero Dark 30″, for which she’s nominated for an Oscar as best actress. Sure she’s been in other things, I just can’t recall at the moment. She’s a good actress.

Seth T

January 18th, 2013
1:53 pm

It will be interesting to see next week’s ratings, which will give an indication of whether Minaj and Mariah are helping or hurting ratings.

Rickster

January 18th, 2013
1:54 pm

I appreciate the clarification, Sam-A.. but since I’ve not seen either of them… it didn’t help all that much.

I even looked her up on Google, and still have no idea who she is.

;-)

Rodney Ho

January 18th, 2013
3:13 pm

Idol regulars: commenting is now working again over at the new site. Please go over there and populate!

JTesla

January 18th, 2013
4:00 pm

Hmm not able to see comments, even on my phone. I see that there are 16 comments, so someone was able to get in since I posted there earlier.

FarTrain

January 18th, 2013
5:26 pm

It just happened again, and it’s so frustrating! Why can’t it be fixed? Am I the only one this is happening to? I refer to when the sign in block pops up on initial start up. When I click on it my laptop locks up from 1-2 mins. and I can’t do anything. This is the only site it does it on so know it’s not my computer. I have reported it to no avail. Also, it’s aggravating having to continually login when going from AJC sports to Entertainment(Access Atl). Why is this? There are numerous newspaper sites too where when you login you are good for the day. Honestly, if the AJC doesn’t do something, and IMPROVE this site to user-friendly I will just stop putting up with the annoyance. USA Today has an idol blog, I will just go there instead.

Deirdre

January 18th, 2013
6:36 pm

Fartrain, that has not happened to me.